UofL Writing Center

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Archive for the month “April, 2016”

Big Changes, and Big Opportunities, This Year at the Writing Center

Bronwyn T. Williams, Director

While there is no such thing as an uneventful year at the University Writing Center, this year has been notable for the changes  – and opportunities – that have taken place. The most obvious change was our move to a new space on the renovated

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The New University Writing Center

first floor of Ekstrom Library. After fifteen years on the third floor, we finally moved at the end of October to our new space that we helped design. This new space is larger, more flexible, and allows us to begin to hold events that foster and celebrate a culture of writing on campus. We’re also more centrally located and can collaborate more closely with our partners in the Learning Commons, such as Library Reference.

It’s also worth noting that the amazing staff at the University Writing Center made the move in the middle of the semester without having to close for a single hour. Our staff is indeed amazing.

Before listing all the noteworthy accomplishments of the year, I don’t want to overlook the important, daily work the consultants here did in teaching writing. Whether working with first-year students or graduate students or faculty and staff, our writing consultants helped people with writing at every stage of the writing process. Our consultants are exceptional DSCN3839teachers who work with the writers who come here to make the writing stronger and the writers more confident. Just as important, our consultants have to be patient, good listeners, and respectful. We believe in starting with the writer’s concerns, working collaboratively, and focusing on learning, not grading. From our perspective it’s the way the best teaching and learning happens. There is a reason we will have more than  5,000 visits to the Writing Center by the end of the year, and that reason is our talented and dedicated staff of consultants.

I also want to thank my fantastic administrative staff who carried us through this year of change with calm, creativity, and good humor. Cassandra Book, who started this year as Associate Director, has been invaluable in every way, and is the force that keeps the Writing Center together. The four assistant directors, Stephen Cohen, Jamila Kareem, Amy Nichols, and Laura Tetreault also were indispensable in helping with the move as well as coming up with new and creative ideas for the Writing Center. Robin Blackett, with the help of our student workers Carine Basenge and Ecasia Burrus, ran the front of the Writing Center with patience and professionalism. All of them are the people who make the Writing Center work, day in and day out, and make it a positive and productive place for the UofL community.

Finally, we are all grateful for the trust placed in us by the writers who came to us to work on their writing. We are always learning from the writers we work with as they learn from us. The reciprocal and collaborative relationship is key to the work we do. I also thank all the faculty and staff who supported our work by recommending us to their students.

We will be open during the summer, starting May 9, from 9-4 every weekday. Meanwhile, take a look at our website and we hope to see you soon.

Other Reasons to Celebrate

In addition to our daily work of teaching of writing through one-on-one consultations, there are other events and activities that we organize, and other plans we are making. It’s worth taking a moment to point to some of the accomplishments, and to talk about what they are going to allow us to do in the future.

New Writing Center Projects:

Writing Center Events: One reason we are so excited about our new space is that is has allowed us to begin holding events to celebrate and

open mic

Open Mic Night with The White Squirrel Literary Magazine

promote writing in all its forms. Since our move to the first floor we’ve co-hosted an open mic poetry reading with The White Squirrel, writing group meetings in partnership with LGBT Center, a panel on how to get published as a creative writer in partnership with the Creative Writing program, and readings as part of the Celebration of Student Writing. Assistant Director Laura Tetreault led the planning and organization of these events for us. We plan to continue and expand these events in the coming year, so please keep an eye out for announcements.

Graduate Student Writing Groups: We started our first Graduate Student Writing Groups this spring, where graduate students could come and get support for their writing project through conversations and responses from their peers. Our Assistant Director for Graduate Student Writing, Stephen Cohen, will continue to facilitate these groups during the summer. Check out our website for more information.

Art in the Writing Center: We believe that the University Writing Center should foster

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Looking in at our art from the Library study area.

student expression in many different forms. So, while we may be in a new location, we’ve continued our tradition of displaying student art in the Writing Center. We put out a call for art across the University and were happy to hang work by Sierra Altenstadter, Paige Goodlett, Jenny Kiefer, Ellen Lattz, Tom LeGoff, Claire Nelson, Cheyenne Nolan, and Jackson Taylor that will be on display at least through the summer. We also are excited to have Tia Wells creating paintings specifically for the Writing Center that we should be hanging during the summer.

Family Scholar House: Amy Nichols, one of the Writing Center Assistant Directors, has been holding regular writing workshops and consultations at Family Scholar House this academic year. Amy plans to continue and develop this work in the coming year as part of exciting plans to engage in more community literacy work.

New Literacy Tutoring Course: We proposed, and had approved, a new English Department course, English 508 – Literacy Tutoring Across Contexts and Cultures. This course will focus on the theory and practice of teaching writing in one-on-one and small group settings and will cover the theoretical foundations of teaching writing effectively in academic, professional, and community settings. Students will explore effective pedagogical strategies for working with writers from a variety of backgrounds in a variety of contexts. Students completing this course will be eligible for internships in community-based settings such as Family Scholar House and the Louisville Free Public Library. We will announce when the course will be offered as soon as we have that information.

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Directors’ Day Out Writing Center Workshop

Directors’ Day Out: The University Writing Center sponsored the “Directors’ Day Out” professional development workshop for college writing center directors from Kentucky and southern Indiana. Cassie Book wrote about the day’s events in an earlier blog post.

 

The Growth of Ongoing Writing Center Projects:

Writing Center Website: We expanded and revised parts of our website, such as our Writing FAQs – which are out responses to frequently asked questions about undergraduate and graduate writing – and our resources for faculty who want to develop their approaches to teaching writing.

Faculty Writing Groups: We continued our Faculty Writing Groups to provide support and feedback for faculty writers.

Writing Center Social Media: We continued to communicate our ideas about writing and the teaching of writing through our presence on Twitter and Facebook as well as our blog.

Dissertation Writing Retreats: Our Dissertation Writing Retreats remain popular and we are having the pleasure of seeing 90 percent of the students who attend the retreats complete their dissertations.

Workshops: Our Writing Center staff conducted a broad range of writing workshops in both courses and for student organizations on issues such as revision, writing a literature review, citation styles, and resume writing. If you would like to request a workshop, you can contact us through our website or by email.

Support for Distance Education Students: Jamila Kareem, assistant director of the Virtual Writing Center, not only continued to provide online writing consultations for students taking online courses, but also worked to include such students for the first time in the Celebration of Student Writing.

Writing Center Staff Achievements

The University Writing Center, in addition to its teaching mission, is also an active site of scholarship about the teaching of writing. Staff from the Writing Center were engaged in a number of scholarly projects during the past year in rhetoric and composition, literature, and creative writing.

Cassandra Book, Associate Director of the University Writing Center, Co-authored a chapter titled, “Tutor Observations as a Tool for Creating a Supportive and Productive Tutoring Environment,” in the editing collection, Communicating Advice: Peer Tutoring and Communication Practice. Her co-author was with Maureen McCoy, who is on the UofL REACH staff. Cassie also presented at the International Writing Center Association Conference,  the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture, and the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

Stephen Cohen, Assistant Director of Graduate Student Writing, presented at  Conference on College Composition and Communication.

Jamila Kareem, Assistant Director for the Virtual Writing Center, published a chapter titled, “The Mogul Ethos and the American Dream in Contemporary Mainstream Rap.” In the edited collection,  The Good Life and the Greater Good in a Global Context.

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The University Writing Center Staff

Jamila also presented at the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference, the Workshop for the Transitioning to College Writing Symposium, and the Conference College Composition and Communication, where she was a recipient of a Scholars for the Dream National Travel Award.

Amy Nichols, Assistant Director of the University Writing Center, presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Amy also received the English Department Creative Writing Award for Poetry.

Laura Tetreault, Assistant Director of the University Writing Center, had a coauthored article (with Bruce Horner) titled “Translation as (Global) Writing” accepted by the journal, Composition Studies. She has also had a co-edited book collection (with Bruce Horner )accepted for publication, titled: Crossing Divides: Exploring Translingual Writing Pedagogies and Programs. Laura also presented at the Feminisms and Rhetoric conference and at the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

Emily Blair presented at the Southern Studies Conference.

Rhea Crone has been accepted into the MA in English program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Cheyenne Franklin had her article, “Quintilian Education and Additive Bilingualism,” published in the journal Queen City Writers.

Jessica Good published five articles during her internship at Louisville Magazine in Spring 2016. Jess will also be the Henry James Review Graduate Teaching Assistant next year.

Anthony Gross presented at the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture and at the Indiana University Comparative Literature Conference.

Jenny Kiefer had her poem, “Between Our Legs: On Women of the Warren County Jail,” published in the journal White Squirrel. Jenny also selected for an editorial internship at Louisville Magazine for Spring 2016 and will be the Assistant Director for Creative Writing Department next year.

Karley Miller received a Creative Writing Scholarship from the Department of English.

 

 

 

 

 

Apathy and the Writing Assignment

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Are you feeling tense or anxious about an upcoming paper? Inconveniently suffering from writer’s block halfway through your assignment? Having trouble getting started, in the first place? Chances are you’ve experienced some, if not all, of these. All writers inevitably do. There is an incredible amount of helpful advice articles and blog posts about these common dilemmas circulating in the internet ethers, and therefore no shortage of discussion regarding their remedies. There is another dilemma that a markedly fewer number of sources address, however, that is no less dire than the aforementioned frustrations.

Apathy.

That’s right—it is a truth universally known yet not always acknowledged that writers sometimes simply do not care about an assignment. This does not mean they are “bad” writers, of course. They instead suffer from a deeply felt lack of interest in the topic they are writing about. This blog post will be a brief, practical guide for writers just trying to get words on paper when they would rather watch paint dry, or scroll back past the same Tumblr post for the 99th time. It will not aim to inspire, or change hearts and minds about just how rewarding the writing process can be. Rather, it will offer a few tricks and tools to get writers to the last sentence on the last page of a paper they would just as soon fold into an airplane and toss through a window. Without further ado, let’s get through this.

1. Attempt all possible means and methods of making yourself interested.

No blog post detailing ways to get through an apathetic writing venture would be complete without first suggesting that everything within reason be done to make the paper topic interesting. Try listing at least three things that are remotely intriguing about the topic in question, and writing on your topic from a different perspective. The latter suggestion can be carried out by arguing for something if you find arguing against it particularly draining, and vice versa; moreover, if the assignment in question is a research paper, this suggestion can be taken up by incorporating an unexpected, yet valid and scholarly, source.

Lack of motivation is hopefully impermanent and can be cured by an impending deadline (or two). In these cases a writer might very well find themselves in a state of panicked writing and/or blind terror regarding the poor grade a hastily written paper might receive. Sometimes, however, even with looming deadlines, writers still have no desire to compose a paper, and therefore experience no anxiety or regret. With that said: writers who simply cannot muster an ounce of interest in the subject matter they are expected to write about, the rest of this list is for you.

2. Set small goals.

 

If completing an entire paper seems not only boring, but daunting, try breaking the paper into small sections, and set the goal of completing one of these small sections per day, or, on a slightly larger scale, per week. Completing papers incrementally can make the composition process seem much less taxing. Indeed, sitting down to write on a topic you have no interest in is a much less painful experience when you are armed with the knowledge that you will only be composing a few paragraphs or so.

 

3. Set up a reward system.

 

Reward systems vary drastically from one writer to the next due to differences in writing style, pace, and—perhaps obviously—what different people find rewarding. Whether you are rewarding yourself for drafting a thesis statement, or getting a particularly complicated paragraph down on paper, treat yourself. For longer papers, try to set up a slightly more strenuous system: for each full page you complete, promise yourself some form of reward. This reward can be simple or extravagant, and should take on whatever (legal) form that will make it an effective means of encouragement.

 

4. Give yourself permission to get it done.

 

It goes without saying that we all want to be the best writers we can, and produce the best work we can. Sometimes, however, we’re faced with an encroaching deadline for a paper that bores us to tears, and we have to take a somewhat drastic measure. Put bluntly, we have to give ourselves permission to simply get the paper done. When getting a paper done, it is crucial—as always—to ensure that all guidelines and parameters of the assignment have been met, and that the finished essay adheres to otherwise generally accepted conventions (e.g. each paragraph includes a topic sentence, all quoted material is contextualized within the paper’s argument, etc.). In other words, produce a paper that fulfills the criteria of the assignment, submit it, and be done with it. There will be other papers; there will be other topics. This is academia, after all.

Composing essays, no matter the length, is oftentimes no easy task. Even for the most experienced scholars among us, the effort that must be put into the writing process can seem downright herculean. In the midst of attempting to make a particularly droll topic interesting, setting goals, granting yourself rewards, and gearing yourself up to simply get the paper done, try to remember: you are certainly not the first writer to stare at a blinking cursor, unable to believe how little they care about the piece of writing that must be produced. For further resources on different aspects of apathy management, feel free to peruse the following sites:

 

For when you do not care but think you can still be motivated:

http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/procrastination/

For when you do not care and are in need of commiseration (this author “know[s] personally how boring writing an essay can be . . .”):

http://thewritepractice.com/writing-an-essay/

For when you do not care and need to write quickly:

http://www.pitt.edu/~kloman/Anthony/news-paper.html

Write What You Know: Researching for Fiction

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All creative writers have likely heard the phrase “write what you know.” But fiction would be comprised of a fairly boring (though surreal) collection if authors were limited solely to experiences they had personally experienced. Historical fiction would be nonexistent. So how can you write what you know if it’s something you haven’t experienced? Research! Research probably reminds you more of writing a scholarly essay than a short story. Fiction is a made-up story, right? So why should you research for something you’re creating?

There are many reasons why research can benefit your creative writing. The main reason would be to provide verisimilitude (a fancy word for believability) and credibility. Readers can likely tell when you’re winging it, and even small errors can bring the reader out of your story. They shouldn’t believe your story actually happened, but they should believe it could have happened. Further, small, specific details can make your story entirely more believable. As a knitter, for a visual example, I immediately find fault with a movie or TV show when knitting is animated wrong. Not only am I drawn out of my immersion in the story, but I can’t help but wonder: the animators or creators couldn’t have spent ten minutes watching a video or learning what it looks like to knit?

Another reason to research is to learn more about your characters or setting. During the research project, you will probably uncover interesting and new details and facts that will improve upon your existing character or setting. (Unfortunately, sometimes a detail you wanted to include is actually incorrect and you have to put it away for later use.) Even if you don’t use every little thing you uncover–and you likely won’t need to–it will still make your story more realistic. For example, if you’re researching Air Force bombs, you might find a lot of technical information that will give you a good idea of how to write about their destruction, even if you don’t tell the reader that it fell at 600 feet per second.

So what are some methods you can use?

  • Internet. The internet is probably the most obvious source–but it is usually better for smaller research tasks. YouTube Videos can be useful for mechanical and technical tasks like crafts, cooking, how to load a gun, etc. Google Maps can help you see a far-away place and “walk around” by using the street view.

  • Documentaries can provide factual and visual information on a topic.

  • Memoirs can provide a personal and narrative aspect to your subject.

  • Newspapers can provide historical information and editorials can illuminate social opinions of certain times.

  • Relevant museums, places, or restaurants can give you a hands-on experience without traveling (through time or space). Eating at a French restaurant can help you describe French food, for example.

  • Interviews will allow you to ask specific, pointed questions about someone’s real life experience.

Research is a necessary tool when crafting a work of fiction, if you want to create a believable story. You might even end up discovering that you are having fun researching–just be sure you actually get around to writing!

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